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NBA rosters churning more than ever. How did we get here?

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This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video, and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

Chris Webber was the prize of the NBA’s 2001 free-agent class. He was a somewhat young star – maybe even superstar – in his prime. Playing for the Sacramento Kings, he indicated interest in bigger cities. He also showed an affinity for his hometown Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers, who were coached by former Piston Isiah Thomas. It looked like a high-stakes, wide-open chase.

Webber re-signed with the Kings on a seven-year, $123 million contract, which was viewed as a massive success for Sacramento. And for a while it was. Webber led the Kings to 61 wins and Game 7 of the Western Conference finals the following season. Sacramento remained very good for a couple more seasons.

But Webber’s athleticism began to wane amid injuries. In 2005, the Kings traded him to the 76ers for a trio of players on clunky contracts – Corliss Williamson, Brian Skinner and Kenny Thomas. In 2007, Philadelphia bought out Webber with more than a season remaining on his contract.

And that’s how we got this year’s wild offseason.

Owners resented contracts like Webber’s – too expensive and maybe more importantly, too long. Webber was as good as advertised. So good, he could secure at age 28 a deal that guaranteed him a high salary well into his 30s. He just couldn’t maintain his production that long, and he was far from alone in producing that predicament. Many teams were saddled with long, onerous contracts given to formerly good players.

So, owners pushed for key changes in the 2005 and 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreements, the latter of which followed a lockout. Along with other situational differences, the landscape has transformed. Add unique choices of players and teams this summer, and we’ve never seen anything like this.

Just 57% of minutes played last season went to players who remain on the same team now. By comparison: A decade ago, 70% of minutes went to players who remained on the same team the next season.

The 57% is a soft figure. We don’t yet know who will actually play for the same team next season. Un-rostered players could still re-sign. Rostered players could still get traded or waived. But this late into the offseason, it seems about 57% of minutes last season will have gone to players who played for the same team next season.

If so, that’ll be the lowest mark in recorded NBA history.

Here’s how many minutes each season went to players who played for the same team the following season (since 1951-52, as far back as Basketball-Reference has individual minutes totals):

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While the percentage this summer created a new low, the decline isn’t linear. This year might have been somewhat of an outlier. Still, the percentage has been trending downward.

While some people in management have expressed despair about this new reality, remember, ownership-pushed policies sparked much of this. Here several key developments that led to this summer’s mass movement:

Shorter contracts

This is the simplest and biggest reason. The NBA has steadily decreased maximum contract length – from seven years if re-signing/six years if not to six/five to the current five/four. The more often players become free agents, the more often they change teams.

The owners’ goal was reducing deadweight contracts. And it worked. Players’ compensation is more closely tied to their production than previously.

But the consequence has been instability. Teams can move on from players more quickly, and – on the other side of the coin I’m not sure owners fully appreciated – players can move on from teams more quickly.

Stretch provision

The stretch provision – which allows teams to waive a player and stretch his cap hit across double the remaining years on his contract plus one – also helps teams alter rosters.

When waiving teams had take a cap hit in accordance with the player’s contract, there was less reason to waive him. The main benefit was a roster spot. But the cap hit was locked in and could become highly encumbering. It often made sense to keep negative-value players in case it made more sense to trade them later.

Now, stretching a negative-value player opens cap flexibility. Sometimes, it still makes sense to wait for a trade rather than lock in a cap hit. But there is more reason to cut loose players sooner through the stretch provision.

Rising salary cap

At the same time a larger of players are hitting free agency each year, the salary cap has significantly increased. It skyrocketed in 2016 then had a couple more years of steady growth. More teams typically have major spending more each summer.

That makes it more likely a player finds an outside situation he prefers to re-signing with his incumbent team, which typically holds advantages in paying him.

Trade relaxation

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement also loosened salary-matching parameters. With it easier to construct trades, more players get moved.

Star power

The era of stars staying put is long over. They don’t even need to wait for a perfect opportunity anymore. They can create their own pop-up super teams wherever and nearly whenever they want.

Contracts are so large either way, several stars have felt comfortable leaving money on the table – even super-max salaries – to get to their preferred destination.

With stars comprising a small portion of the league, the direct effect here is limited. But the trickle-down is large. Teams generally prioritize different types of other players when they have a star (veterans) vs. when they don’t (youngsters).

Several teams are still in the midst of that process. The Thunder traded Russell Westbrook and Paul George, but got expensive veterans like Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari whom Oklahoma City might prefer to flip. The Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard but still have other members of the championship core. On the other side, teams like the Lakers could do even more to push in for the present.

The 2020 championship chase appears wide open, which already led to this movement and could inspire even more. Many teams don’t look done.

They’ll evaluate chemistry as the season unfolds. So many teams are integrating so many new pieces. It’s one of the most important themes of the season.

And beyond.

There are real questions about whether this player movement is good for the league. Will fans struggle to build a connection with their favorite team? Or are there enough fans of certain players for this not to matter much? Has competitive balance been increased or decreased?

Chatter has emerged from the team side about limiting players’ ability to switch teams. Anthony Davis‘ trade request particularly caused a fresh wound.

But these dynamics are difficult to control. Unintended consequences abound.

Just look how we got here.

Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett out at least a week with right ankle sprain

R.J. Barrett
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NEW YORK (AP) New York Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett will miss at least a week with a sprained right ankle.

Barrett was hurt during the Knicks’ loss to Phoenix on Thursday. On Friday, he had X-rays, which were negative.

The Knicks announced afterward that Barrett will be re-evaluated in a week.

The No. 3 pick in the draft from Duke is averaging 14.1 points.

Heat: Justise Winslow out at least two more weeks

Justise Winslow
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MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat say Justise Winslow will miss at least two more weeks while recovering from a back injury.

Winslow has played only once since Dec. 4 and is slated to be out for at least the remainder of January. The team originally called Winslow’s injury a back strain, then updated the diagnosis to a bone bruise.

Winslow played off the bench in Miami’s win at Indiana on Jan. 8. The team said the back problems reappeared after that game. He has not played since.

Friday’s game in Oklahoma City is Miami’s 41st of the season and the 30th that Winslow has missed. He’s averaging 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Heat this season.

Kevin Huerter’s 3-pointer gives Hawks first win in San Antonio in his lifetime (video)

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The Hawks beat the Spurs in San Antonio on Feb. 15, 1997.

The next year, Kevin Huerter was born.

Atlanta’s next win in San Antonio came Friday, when Huerter hit the game-winning 3-pointer in a 121-120 win.

The Hawks’ losing streak in San Antonio spanned Tim Duncan’s entire lengthy career – and continued a few seasons beyond that. The only reprieve came during the lockout-shortened 1999 season, when Atlanta didn’t visit San Antonio. So, the skid lasted 21 games.

Buddy Hield on Kings getting booed at home: ‘That’s how Sacramento fans are’

Kings guard Buddy Hield
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Buddy Hield is quite familiar with frustration amid the Kings’ disappointing season.

Sacramento fans showed theirs Wednesday, booing the Kings during their home loss to the Mavericks.

Buddy Hield, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed…we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.

“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”

Hield seemingly isn’t looking to pick a fight with fans. He made a point to empathize with their frustration.

But I don’t think he’s being fair, either.

Kings fans are far more loyal than swinging between love and hate depending whether or not a shot falls. They’re fed up after 13 – going on 14 – straight seasons missing the playoffs. This year has been particularly discouraging, as Sacramento has backtracked from fun and fast to sad and slow. Losing to Luka Doncica particular grievance – only adds to the irritation.

The Kings’ problems have spanned multiple owners, executives, coaches and players. So, booing this group isn’t totally fair, either. But this is who’s in front of the fans.

If this Sacramento team plays hard and together, fans will embrace it – and stick with it through thinner times.